5 More Elements of Composition in Photography - Digital Photography School
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5 More Elements of Composition in Photography

Yesterday I shared 5 ingredients of composition that I consider when setting up a shot. Today I’d like to talk about 5 more.

Framing

Image by foreversouls

Most of us use ‘frames’ to display our images when we hang them on walls for viewing – however ‘framing’ can be used within the composition of a shot to help you highlight your main point of interest in the image and and/or to put it in context to give the image ‘depth’.

Learn how to use framing as an element of composition.


Perspective

Image by Image by fensterbme

The perspective that a shot is taken from is another element that can have a big impact upon an image.

Shooting from up high and looking down on a subject or shooting from below looking up on the same subject drastically impact not only the ‘look’ of the image, emphasizing different points of interest, angles, textures, shapes etc – but it also impacts the ‘story’ of an image.

Read more on photographing people from different angles.

Space

Image by .robbie

There can be a fine line between filling your frame with your subject (and creating a nice sense of intimacy and connection) and also giving your subject space to breath.

Either technique can be effective – so experiment with moving in close and personal and moving out to capture a subject in its context.

Sometimes it is what you leave out of an image that makes it special

Balance

Image by *L*u*z*a*

The positioning with elements in a frame can leave an image feeling balanced or unbalanced.

Too many points of interest in one section of your image can leave it feeling too ‘heavy’ or complicated in that section of the shot and other parts feeling ‘empty’.

Read more about balance in photography.

Color

Image by baboon

The colors in an image and how they are arranged can make or break a shot.

Bright colors can add vibrancy, energy and interest – however in the wrong position they can also distract viewers of an image away from focal points.

Colors also greatly impact ‘mood’. Blues and Greens can have a calming soothing impact, Reds and Yellows can convey vibrancy ad energy etc.

What have I missed?

Between yesterday’s post on composition elements in photography and today’s I’ve covered just 10 things that photographers consider when composing a photo. What would you add?

If you enjoyed this article, you might also like...

Darren Rowse is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals. He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

  • http://www.hypelightphotography.com Skotniczny

    Great article especially when paired with yesterdays.
    Every photographer should consider each of these elements of composition before pressing the shutter.
    I’m not sure whether it would be worth adding ‘motion’, I think if you follow these ten elements you will get a great shot every time.

  • http://foodientravelbug.blogspot.com MeiTeng

    I like the idea of using space in composition. That image illustration is great!

  • http://www.lightshootedit.com scott

    A good article. Learning these is always a good idea, as it can improve your current photography but also give you ideas for shots you otherwise might have missed.

  • http://www.kingmotorsportphotography.com JohnK

    How about MOTION. Given my focus is on motorsport photography, I have to consider illustration of motion in a still image. Sometimes I pan with the subject and blur the background.

    1/40sec, f18, ISO 100, 100mm APS-C

    Sometimes I will hold the camera stationary and allow the subject to move through the frame.

    5 sec, f32, ISO100, 100mm APS-C

    Sometimes I will try to impart motion to a stationary object by zooming in or out while triggering the shutter.

    1/15 sec, f22, ISO 100, zooming 105mm to 28mm APS-C

    No matter how you do it MOTION can be a compelling compositional element.

    Check out more of my images at http://www.kingmotorsportphotography.com

  • http://jasoncollinphotography.com Jason Collin Photography

    You may have mentioned leading lines a bit before, but more specifically I would like to mention vanishing point composition, where two lines converge at near infinity, or a tunnel opening does, etc.

    http://jasoncollinphotography.com/blog/2010/4/1/photography-tip-vanishing-point.html

    Was silhouette mentioned as well?

  • http://www.kingmotorsportphotography.com JohnK

    OOOPS! Having problems posting sample images. I will try this one more time. Here are the links to the photos.

  • http://devwijewardane.blogspot.com Dev Wijewardane

    How about the direction of light?

  • http://www.flickr.com/singhangad angad

    love the concepts of balance, color and space..not many talk about them.

    other elements to look at would be the the crop/ orientation of the camera

  • http://thewayisee.us Lev

    Good points but Perspective is not quite quight, IMO.
    See http://photoinf.com/General/NAVY/Perspective.htm

  • http://www.rednail.com.au Sean Lander

    Hey. Nice site! Very pleased to see someone from Melbourne putting this together. Well done.
    I’m getting interested in photography again because I’m using the 5d Mk II to shoot video!
    It’s a funny world ain’t it?

  • Kashmira

    These are great examples of what to do. Would be nice if we could get examples of “what-not-to-do” for each category as well.

  • Ely Dennis

    Your articles are amazingly helpful and inspiring. After reading them and seeing the images, I cannot wait to go out and shoot photos. Thank you for this valuable information!!!

  • Bob Bevan Smith

    Brilliant! Thanks Darren.
    A good coverage of the elements, with great illustrations (apart from perspective, which is really an image illustrating angle of view). Remember the classic gunfighter image, low camera angle, with the back of the good guy close up and the bad guy small in the distance? That to me is perspective.
    I agree that the direction of light is another important element, but then there are so many other aspects of lighting that could could be mentioned. Tone, using light to isolate, colour of light, flash fill-in…
    Another element in a similar vein is reflection. Then there’s foreground, and background. And not forgetting the portrait v landscape composition.
    But enough! You have given us food for thought.

  • margaretha toerien

    On behalf of amateurs around the world, thank you DPS. Find inspiration from almost every article. Another photography whizz everyone should read is Scott Kelby… Scott and DPS are my sources of inspiration.

  • http://www.dobox.com/ Bruce

    love the concepts of balance, color and space..not many talk about them.

    other elements to look at would be the the crop/ orientation of the camera

  • Bella

    I like these photos but i can’t discard the fact your probably using a great camera & lens not to mention the post production. I really don’t think my kit lens would reproduce these terribly well.

  • Sean

    @Bella: I think you will be surprised how cheaply these photos were made: Peruse the EXIF data on flickr and find the details!

    The “match” shot is taken with a Rebel XT at 50mm F4…The 50mm 1.8 (a very sharp lens) would do this easily and well….This is canon’s cheapest lens, and you could easily get one for 100 dollars. The Rebel XT is a very inexpensive camera. Buy one used.

    “Noche de luna llena”. (moon with crow) was taken with a digital compact (Powershot A430) which retailed for less than 200 dollars four years ago. Now this would be worth approximately $40…I will grant that is probably a heavy crop, but the same shot from a superzoom compact could probably be made.

    Not sure about the green wall and chair, but it is taken with a Nikon D70 at 60mm. This could easily have been the kit lens.

    There is no EXIF data on the child from the dollhouse, but that shot could easily be made with a kit lens on an APS-C sensor camera.

    The baby in the crib is taken with an ultrawide lens, which is probably an expensive piece of glass (although there are some cheap fisheyes nowadays). The camera was an EOS 5DmkII, so not an inexpensive camera, but not a fortune either.

    Pictures are taken by people, not cameras! Your kit lens is a probably a versatile and relatively sharp zoom lens. You could also get a supersharp 50mm 1.8, and work on your compositions with your feet and eyes.

  • Matt Farias

    I guess what is missing to complete this series on Composition it would be checking your corners and check along the edges. I know that I have always heard that from professionals looking at my work but always without explanation. With fear of asking a silly question in front of my peers I never asked for an explanation. So I would walk away wondering what the heck is he talking about and staring at my photo never revealed any clues right away.

  • Lori

    Thank you so much for this and the other composition articles! I have just begun to venture into serious photography, ie, taking more than those generic, run-of-the-mill snapshots of kids and grandkids, and I find these to be very helpful!

  • http://www.photoshop.com/users/gregnboutz Greg

    I think the direction the light is and the timing that it is done can have great impacts. The diffference between a white background and a pretty blue, yelloe, red, or orange can have a big effect. I don’t like dull backgrounds too often and go for the right time and direction to get those pretty backgound colors that can add a little life to the subject when I am outdoors shooting. I plan my time and locations for directions and make sure I know what the moisture level is also as it can have a disastrous effect on those backgrounds.

  • Bob Hewitt

    In the context of Balance, I’d suggest mentioning the “Rule” of Thirds. Regards, B.H.

  • http://www.bittnerphotography.com Bittner Photography

    Thanks for all of your articles especially this one. Composition is something I need to keep working on. I love the baby shot! Is that a round crib? Would love to see another shot of this to get an idea of the real proportions. I love the distortion of everything but the main subject, great job!

  • http://adriannixon.wordpress.com/ Adrian Nixon

    Cracking photography. I really like the chair and green wall. the simplicity is wonderful.

  • Sue Michiels

    Emotional involvement in the subject and enticement to stay and look at the photo a while longer.

  • Carol

    Each of your 10 photos also emphasize “simplify your subject” and these do a great job of that.

  • http://www.panoramio.com/user/1864539?show=all F.Zaman

    Thank you Darren

  • http://www.gathering-flavors.com Dena

    Great ideas for composition. I am really learning a lot from your posts. You asked about what else I thought mattered: light. Perhaps you could right some time about light as part of the composition when light is a vivid player as opposed to light as a tool. I hope this makes sense….

  • Monique

    How about shape and form? Size and scale? Tone & value, light & shadow, point of view/shooting angle, contrast…
    Sorry if I’m heaping stuff out of nowhere, I just have a project in class on photography and we need to find the definitions of these… I found this article and the other one very helpful, by the way. :)

  • ceebee

    lighting side back over head it can allmake a difference in the composition . shadows and contracting tones can add to the fillling of a space or the emptying of it

  • Calin

    I would add the “rule of odds.” Odd numbers are more appealing to the human eye.

    Diagonals and triangles are also pleasing to the eye.

    Cheers,

    Calin
    http://www.bycalin.com

  • Alex

    Contrast is one of the main elements of a composition.

  • Steve Bryant

    rule of thirds ?

  • Akash Mjumder

    Darren first of all I thank you whole heartedly for pointing these 10 elements of composition of photography. Though I knew most of these but again going through the basics really helps and it will definately help me for the coming exhibition oof our group this August. On behalf of my group Cam2o I invite you to give a visit in it.( If possible in your busy schedule). ????

  • http://www.photography-naturally.com Ricko De Creme

    I’m surprised that you didn’t mention contrast in these top ten things to work with. They are all very accurate, but I would put contrast probably above Color in importance, in my humble opinion. The eye is naturally drawn to recognizable shapes like faces, but contrast will steal the eye’s attention before even the recognizable forms. Just food for thought.

Some older comments

  • ceebee

    June 22, 2013 04:50 am

    lighting side back over head it can allmake a difference in the composition . shadows and contracting tones can add to the fillling of a space or the emptying of it

  • Monique

    April 18, 2013 05:42 am

    How about shape and form? Size and scale? Tone & value, light & shadow, point of view/shooting angle, contrast...
    Sorry if I'm heaping stuff out of nowhere, I just have a project in class on photography and we need to find the definitions of these... I found this article and the other one very helpful, by the way. :)

  • Dena

    July 4, 2012 09:11 am

    Great ideas for composition. I am really learning a lot from your posts. You asked about what else I thought mattered: light. Perhaps you could right some time about light as part of the composition when light is a vivid player as opposed to light as a tool. I hope this makes sense....

  • F.Zaman

    May 30, 2012 01:53 pm

    Thank you Darren

  • Carol

    December 22, 2011 05:00 am

    Each of your 10 photos also emphasize "simplify your subject" and these do a great job of that.

  • Sue Michiels

    April 5, 2011 03:06 am

    Emotional involvement in the subject and enticement to stay and look at the photo a while longer.

  • Adrian Nixon

    April 4, 2011 06:55 am

    Cracking photography. I really like the chair and green wall. the simplicity is wonderful.

  • Bittner Photography

    March 5, 2011 01:11 pm

    Thanks for all of your articles especially this one. Composition is something I need to keep working on. I love the baby shot! Is that a round crib? Would love to see another shot of this to get an idea of the real proportions. I love the distortion of everything but the main subject, great job!

  • Bob Hewitt

    January 4, 2011 11:47 pm

    In the context of Balance, I'd suggest mentioning the "Rule" of Thirds. Regards, B.H.

  • Greg

    January 3, 2011 04:43 pm

    I think the direction the light is and the timing that it is done can have great impacts. The diffference between a white background and a pretty blue, yelloe, red, or orange can have a big effect. I don't like dull backgrounds too often and go for the right time and direction to get those pretty backgound colors that can add a little life to the subject when I am outdoors shooting. I plan my time and locations for directions and make sure I know what the moisture level is also as it can have a disastrous effect on those backgrounds.

  • Lori

    August 11, 2010 01:11 am

    Thank you so much for this and the other composition articles! I have just begun to venture into serious photography, ie, taking more than those generic, run-of-the-mill snapshots of kids and grandkids, and I find these to be very helpful!

  • Matt Farias

    August 6, 2010 11:02 am

    I guess what is missing to complete this series on Composition it would be checking your corners and check along the edges. I know that I have always heard that from professionals looking at my work but always without explanation. With fear of asking a silly question in front of my peers I never asked for an explanation. So I would walk away wondering what the heck is he talking about and staring at my photo never revealed any clues right away.

  • Sean

    June 22, 2010 12:33 am

    @Bella: I think you will be surprised how cheaply these photos were made: Peruse the EXIF data on flickr and find the details!

    The "match" shot is taken with a Rebel XT at 50mm F4...The 50mm 1.8 (a very sharp lens) would do this easily and well....This is canon's cheapest lens, and you could easily get one for 100 dollars. The Rebel XT is a very inexpensive camera. Buy one used.

    "Noche de luna llena". (moon with crow) was taken with a digital compact (Powershot A430) which retailed for less than 200 dollars four years ago. Now this would be worth approximately $40...I will grant that is probably a heavy crop, but the same shot from a superzoom compact could probably be made.

    Not sure about the green wall and chair, but it is taken with a Nikon D70 at 60mm. This could easily have been the kit lens.

    There is no EXIF data on the child from the dollhouse, but that shot could easily be made with a kit lens on an APS-C sensor camera.

    The baby in the crib is taken with an ultrawide lens, which is probably an expensive piece of glass (although there are some cheap fisheyes nowadays). The camera was an EOS 5DmkII, so not an inexpensive camera, but not a fortune either.

    Pictures are taken by people, not cameras! Your kit lens is a probably a versatile and relatively sharp zoom lens. You could also get a supersharp 50mm 1.8, and work on your compositions with your feet and eyes.

  • Bella

    June 18, 2010 02:52 am

    I like these photos but i can't discard the fact your probably using a great camera & lens not to mention the post production. I really don't think my kit lens would reproduce these terribly well.

  • Bruce

    May 22, 2010 06:33 am

    love the concepts of balance, color and space..not many talk about them.

    other elements to look at would be the the crop/ orientation of the camera

  • margaretha toerien

    May 21, 2010 05:34 pm

    On behalf of amateurs around the world, thank you DPS. Find inspiration from almost every article. Another photography whizz everyone should read is Scott Kelby... Scott and DPS are my sources of inspiration.

  • Bob Bevan Smith

    May 21, 2010 05:34 pm

    Brilliant! Thanks Darren.
    A good coverage of the elements, with great illustrations (apart from perspective, which is really an image illustrating angle of view). Remember the classic gunfighter image, low camera angle, with the back of the good guy close up and the bad guy small in the distance? That to me is perspective.
    I agree that the direction of light is another important element, but then there are so many other aspects of lighting that could could be mentioned. Tone, using light to isolate, colour of light, flash fill-in...
    Another element in a similar vein is reflection. Then there's foreground, and background. And not forgetting the portrait v landscape composition.
    But enough! You have given us food for thought.

  • Ely Dennis

    May 21, 2010 11:04 am

    Your articles are amazingly helpful and inspiring. After reading them and seeing the images, I cannot wait to go out and shoot photos. Thank you for this valuable information!!!

  • Kashmira

    May 21, 2010 04:06 am

    These are great examples of what to do. Would be nice if we could get examples of "what-not-to-do" for each category as well.

  • Sean Lander

    May 20, 2010 11:09 pm

    Hey. Nice site! Very pleased to see someone from Melbourne putting this together. Well done.
    I'm getting interested in photography again because I'm using the 5d Mk II to shoot video!
    It's a funny world ain't it?

  • Lev

    May 19, 2010 04:45 am

    Good points but Perspective is not quite quight, IMO.
    See http://photoinf.com/General/NAVY/Perspective.htm

  • angad

    May 18, 2010 11:40 am

    love the concepts of balance, color and space..not many talk about them.

    other elements to look at would be the the crop/ orientation of the camera

  • Dev Wijewardane

    May 18, 2010 09:31 am

    How about the direction of light?

  • JohnK

    May 18, 2010 06:04 am

    OOOPS! Having problems posting sample images. I will try this one more time. Here are the links to the photos.

  • Jason Collin Photography

    May 18, 2010 03:11 am

    You may have mentioned leading lines a bit before, but more specifically I would like to mention vanishing point composition, where two lines converge at near infinity, or a tunnel opening does, etc.

    http://jasoncollinphotography.com/blog/2010/4/1/photography-tip-vanishing-point.html

    Was silhouette mentioned as well?

  • JohnK

    May 18, 2010 01:35 am

    How about MOTION. Given my focus is on motorsport photography, I have to consider illustration of motion in a still image. Sometimes I pan with the subject and blur the background.

    1/40sec, f18, ISO 100, 100mm APS-C

    Sometimes I will hold the camera stationary and allow the subject to move through the frame.

    5 sec, f32, ISO100, 100mm APS-C

    Sometimes I will try to impart motion to a stationary object by zooming in or out while triggering the shutter.

    1/15 sec, f22, ISO 100, zooming 105mm to 28mm APS-C

    No matter how you do it MOTION can be a compelling compositional element.

    Check out more of my images at http://www.kingmotorsportphotography.com

  • scott

    May 18, 2010 01:34 am

    A good article. Learning these is always a good idea, as it can improve your current photography but also give you ideas for shots you otherwise might have missed.

  • MeiTeng

    May 18, 2010 12:48 am

    I like the idea of using space in composition. That image illustration is great!

  • Skotniczny

    May 18, 2010 12:37 am

    Great article especially when paired with yesterdays.
    Every photographer should consider each of these elements of composition before pressing the shutter.
    I'm not sure whether it would be worth adding 'motion', I think if you follow these ten elements you will get a great shot every time.

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